Cubs Affiliate Preview Series: South Bend Loaded with Top Talent
Giggity! Giggity! Giggity!
That’s pretty much what I thought of as I began to write this post. The amount of talent heading to South Bend in 2017 is immense in all three phases of the game and I see another winning season on the horizon. Before we get to all that talent, though, we first need to revisit the 2016 South Bend Cubs season.
2016 season review
In their second year as the Cubs’ full-season low class A affiliate, the South Bend Cubs posted an 84-55 record and made the playoffs for the first time. The team produced a lot of talent that remained in South Bend and some that helped lead the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to a title at the next level as well. After a rough April, the SB Cubs played lights-out in May and June.
Led by pitcher Preston Morrison, outfielder Donnie Dewees, and number one prospect, Eloy Jimenez, South Bend was a force to be reckoned with. They won the Eastern Division title on the last day of the first half.
Things changed quite a bit in the second half, however, as Morrison, Dewees, and a few other players were promoted to Myrtle Beach. The Cubs rebuilt on the fly but they never could recapture the mojo they had in the first half. As a result, they bowed out gracefully in the first round of the Midwest League playoffs.
Most of the roster from last year’s Northwest League champion Eugene Emeralds will be coming to South Bend to reload the Cubs. These prospects are a mix of power starting pitchers, deadly bullpen arms, and developing hitters. Five of the Cubs top 30 prospects on MLB.com are expected in South Bend. That’s not too shabby. Several more young top prospects could show up in the second half.
This year’s starting rotation is filled with power arms, headlined by top pitching prospect Dylan Cease. He’ll be joined by Northwest League Pitcher of the Year, Manny Rondon, curveball specialist Erling Moreno, the fireballing Bailey Clark, and 2016 top draft pick Thomas Hatch. Fourth round pick Tyson Miller will have to scratch and claw to earn a spot in the rotation. Bryan Hudson, the Cubs’ 2015 3rd round pick, might be the odd man out.
I’m more than a little excited to see this group every day.
For most Cubs fans, Cease will be the pitcher to see. With velocity of up to 100 mph, his fastball will be a sight to see. His curve is coming along nicely after smoothing out some delivery issues last year. For me, though, it is all about the changeup. That is the pitch he needs to work on. If he improves his change, he won’t be in South Bend very long.
If you like the starting rotation, the bullpen — comprised of Duncan Robinson (who could start), Michael Rucker, lefty Mark Huberman, Dakota Mekkes, lefty Colton Freeman, Chad Hockin, and closer Wyatt Short — is even deadlier. These arms shortened most games in Eugene to five or six innings last summer. Short, for example, did not allow run all season long.
When it comes to the daily lineup, it is a speedy one with Yeiler Peguero and DJ Wilson setting the table at the top of the order. Wladimir Galindo, Trent Giambrone, and Chris Pieters will have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs. Zack Short has potential there as well. Giambrone and Short were both drafted last year and showed excellent plate discipline and pitch recognition skills in their brief time in Eugene. In addition, the two are outstanding leaders and very good defenders at multiple positions in the infield.
I’ve really developed an affinity for this affiliate, as I watch South Bend almost on a daily basis. Not every game is televised, but I see most home games on MiLB.TV. They have a great angle from which to watch the game and for me to analyze the pitching. I will be traveling to many more games throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
This isn’t a matter of hyping them just for the heck of it. If you watched them play every day last summer on Eugene’s MiLB.TV feed, you would know what an exciting group this is. Every night will be a veritable prospect feast and you can just say good luck to the Midwest League right now. I can’t wait!
I like Giambrone a lot. He has great hitting skills, can play every position in the infield, and also has some pop in his bat. He might not be what one considers an elite prospect or athlete, but, like Chesny Young, the young man can hit the baseball hard.
LF – Pieters, Kevonte Mitchell
CF – Wilson
RF – Robert Garcia, Brandon Cummins
3B – Galindo
SS – Short
2B – Peguero
1B – Giambrone
C – Payne, Mastrobuoni
First to be promoted
Zack Short or Trent Giambrone
Players to watch for in the second half
Aramis Ademan, Isaac Paredes, and Josee Albertos
More affiliate previews
High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans preview
AAA Iowa Cubs